After one of the longer waits that we have seen in a while, cross country season finally returns this weekend with races in Eureka, Jackson, Independence, Grain Valley, Lee's Summit, and Chesterfield. To get you prepared for the 2019 season, we have been previewing the top athletes and teams to watch, but what we haven't done yet is set you up with some of our famous bold predictions for the season.
Furthermore, MO MileSplit contributor Kyle Deeken has provided his picks for the top 5 athletes and teams in each class, picks which are bound to make you say, "Hmm..."
Missouri MileSplit is hyped for some fast races in great weather and we hope to see you out there this fall!
Wes Porter Goes Sub-15:00, First Missourian Since 2006
Missouri has produced some phenomenal distance runners over the years. From Tegenkamp, to Hoover, to Hindman, to Hatley, to Falcon, to Perkins, to Radle, and everyone in between, our Midwestern paradise has been consistently churning out high class male athletes throughout history.
But, with all of those names comes only four recorded 5K's under 15:00 (according to our database). Matt Tegenkamp, Lee's Summit - 14:47.52 (1999), Jon Hatley, West Plains - 14:53.30 (1985), and, most recently, Potosi's Josh Thebau (14:55.8) and Josh Mathis (14:58.0), both of whom at the 2007 Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival. In that same year, Potosi's Jacob Swearingin ran 15:00.00 and College Heights Christian's Caleb Hoover ran 15:00.60 in 2010, but otherwise, we have yet to see any other sub-15:00 marks.
Our first, and possibly most bold prediction, involves a feat that several of the state's top athletes have challenged over the years, but only to fall just short. Last year, Carthage's Clayton Whitehead blazed a 15:11.30 mark at Ha Ha Tonka State Park, the 17th fastest mark in our database. Other huge names have come close, but none have cracked the mark. This year, Rockhurst's Wes Porter will become the first one in over a decade to break 15:00 for the Show-Me State.
Porter was plagued by an injury in 2018 after benefiting from the sophomore-to-junior-year breakthrough. After missing most of September and October, he was able to come back for the state series and finish fifth at both the Sectional and State meets, closing out his shortened campaign with a 16:01.30 at Nike Cross Regionals Midwest.
On the track, Porter continued his successful year with personal bests in the 1600 (4:15.88), Mile (4:10.21), and 3200 (9:22.18). He took second in the 1600 at state and sixth in the 3200.
He returns with the fastest personal best in the state, 11 seconds ahead of Kolin Overstreet (Lamar)'s 15:34.20, and almost 30 seconds ahead of the next closest Class 4 returner - Saint Louis University High's Lucas Rackers (15:51.30). Porter will have some opportunities to roll this fall with races at the Greg Wilson Classic, Gans Creek XC Course, and Ray-Pec Course. He could also make a run at the mark at Terre Haute during NXN Regionals should he decide to race it.
Class 1 Sees Three Sophomore Girls Sub-18:30
The 2019 race for the individual title in Class 1 is shaping up to be a tight one.
And 2020...and 2021...
Let's just say, the future of the smallest enrollment class is bright on the girls side.
Marion County's Delaney Straus had a solid freshman campaign on the cross country course, but blew the doors open with her incredible spring season. Straus won individual championships in the 800, 1600, and 3200, and took 2nd in the 400, after finishing third in Class 1 in cross country. She finished out her spring season with 2:20.73, 5:21.45, and 11:30.30 bests in the 800, 1600, and 3200, respectively.
After setting the rubber on fire this May, Straus appears poised to set the new Gans Creek Course ablaze this November, too, but she will still have to compete with the two others in the Class of 2022 that finished ahead of her this past fall.
Blue Eye returns their phenomenal freshman duo to the fold for the 2019 season as Riley and Avery Arnold look similarly poised for success this fall. The fraternal twin sisters went 1-2 in 2019, helping Blue Eye to a second place team finish. Riley returns as one of the fastest runners in the entire state with her 18:33.55 from the Huntsville (AR) Invitational. Avery comes in at 19:02.00, but don't let that 29 second difference fool you. Both girls are stellar in their own right.
This prediction says all three will go sub-18:30, a rare feat in Class 1. It's so rare, in fact, that it has never happened in Class 1. But with these three special talents poised to duke it out in November, it is a highly likely scenario.
Cullen Krieg Breaks Freshman 5K Record
Hop aboard the hype train, ladies and gentlemen. Festus has its next phenom.
Over the years, Festus has become synonymous with success in Class 3. The past five state champion trophies have gone home with the Tigers. In those five years, they have also brought home 25 all-state medals and produced 2 individual state champions.
The success began in 2009 with their first team qualification since 1993. They would win it all that year and go on to earn a trophy in each of the next eight seasons, including their streak of five straight titles dating back to 2014, adding another state title in 2012.
While they already boast arguably their best returning squad since that 2014 team who scored 24 points at state, they will gain the services of Missouri's next big phenom in Cullen Krieg.
The big track and cross country fans in the state have probably seen his name all over the middle school rankings. Last fall, Krieg rolled to marks of 7:25 for 2400 Meters and 7:43 for 2500 Meters. Conversions and equivalencies would have had him pushing 16:00 as an eighth grader already. Add to that resume a 4:51 1600 in 7th grade and a 4:42 1600 in this spring in 8th grade and it is hard to argue that Krieg is the head of the Class of 2023 in the state at the moment.
As a result, look for Krieg to challenge the freshman 5K record recently set by Lafayette's Austin Hindman who ran 15:46.40 on the historically fast Castlewood Park course in 2013. Coach Bryant Wright appears to have given his boys a couple of opportunities to blaze a fast personal best with trips to the Tim Nixon Invitational, new Gans Creek XC Course for the State Meet Preview, and always smoking Chile Pepper Invitational. Of course, Krieg will get another opportunity at Gans Creek at the height of his peak in November and a chance to roll at his 2500 Meter personal best course in West City Park.
Should Krieg roll under 15:46, one has to believe he will bring a couple of his teammates with him. Festus looks very dangerous this season and is a virtual lock for title number six in a row.
Lee's Summit West Girls Put 5 in Top 25, 7 in Top 50 at State
This may have been more bold of a prediction before MSHSAA rosters were posted and added to our site, but after seeing a major cross-town transfer has taken place in Lee's Summit, Lee's Summit West might as well also be a lock for a repeat victory at the state meet.
Seniors Madison Hulsey, Addie Mathis, and McKenna Butler are the leading returners for the Lady Titans, but former Lee's Summit Tiger Makayla Clark is now also in the mix for Coach Jesse Griffin's squad.
That's a game changer.
Clark, a superstar on the AAU circuit in middle school, finished one place behind new teammate Hulsey at the 2018 state cross country meet, but was unable to meet her personal bests in the middle distance events on the track in the spring. How the change of scenery will affect her sophomore campaign will become apparent very soon, but if it is anything like her freshman year cross country season, then big things are about to happen for these Titans.
Essentially what we are looking at here is the possibility for four girls not just in the top 25, but in the top 15 at the state cross country meet this November. After removing the seniors from last season's finale, Hulsey and Clark come in at 4th and 5th with Mathis entering in 14th and Butler at 22nd. Sophomore Haley Baldwin returns with a personal best of 19:37.10 and senior Ruthie Cox adds a 19:45.30 best, giving LSW six girls at 19:45 or better. Blue Springs South is the only other team with at least four at 19:45 or better.
If Lee's Summit West has shown us anything over the years, it's that their coaching staff has a knack for getting the most out of their athletes. Recently, their teams have been more reliant on talent up front than depth in general. This year, Griffin has reported 62 girls on his roster after only having 24 returning from 2018's squad. The depth could push even more cream to the top, giving Lee's Summit West a shot at being the first large class team to put 5 athletes in the top 25 and 7 in the top 50 at the state meet since the Liberty (KC) boys in 2003 (they put all 7 in the top 40).
Smithville Girls Put 3 In Top 10, Win Class 3 Title
Littleton made a massive freshman-to-sophomore year jump as she improved 115 places at the state meet and dropped 2:18 off of her freshman year personal best, throwing down an 18:53.40 at the fairly challenging Rim Rock Farm course. She also ran 18:59.30 at the Missouri Southern Stampede. Littleton's track campaign showed that all of this was hardly a fluke as she was able to secure a Class 4 championship in the 3200 and finish 3rd in the 1600. Christian's Mercedes Schroer and John Burroughs' Kylie Goldfarb have been running the show in Class 3 the last two years, but Littleton could be a candidate to break up their party this November.
Behind her is a 2-3 punch that will be hard to beat by any other team in Class 3. Lily Cutler, who finished 18th in 2018, returns to provide some fantastic support for her fellow junior teammate. Watch for Cutler, who finished 9th as a freshman, to feed off of her teammate's success and sneak her way back into the top 10 in Class 3. The Lady Warriors 3rd runner, Riley Kochanowicz, finished 94th in 2018, but showed promise during the spring and could similarly feed off her teammates' successes to make her own massive jump on the state level.
With the help of Avery Bannwarth, Emma Becker, and Anna Maria Snodderly, the Lady Warriors have a great shot at winning their first team championship since 2002. With 3 placing in the top 10, they could very well run away with it, especially with rumblings that some of their top competitors have lost some of their top returners.